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A Consequence of Our Citizenship

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WWII veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace each other during the WWII Bronze Star Award Ceremony at the National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 2019. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee)

It can be challenging for veterans to find their voice this time of year. That’s understandable. Within an extraordinary community who once wore, or continues to wear the uniform of our country, and their families who stand strong at home, Veterans Day opens a personal window that profoundly touches lives.

While the occasion is designed to celebrate their service, it carries powerful memories of courage, of comrades-in-arm, friends living and others who did not return. For those who did, but carry scars in body, soul and spirit, it is a day often marked by solemn reflection. Overcoming wounds, and for some the enemy within, can be vivid. It transports to depths of emotion and evokes narratives of battle as only war can.

The rest of us have a fervent responsibility on this day, too. We set differences aside and come together to observe and commend past and present service, dedication and sacrifice of remarkable men and women who defend our nation.

Today we reserve room in our hearts for family members who served in Europe or in the Pacific, in Korea, or Vietnam. Maybe it was a grandfather or father, an uncle or aunt, sister or brother, who enlisted or was drafted when America was attacked and plunged into war, or faced a crisis. In a year of historic milestones from combat in World War II and Southeast Asia, we recall the service of veterans whose voices grow silent and younger ones returning from asymmetrical front lines.

Present generations, all volunteers since 1973, reflect service in the deserts and mountains and skies of Southwest Asia in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Horn of Africa, the Straits of Hormuz and across the oceans.

Veterans sometimes say, no thanks for our service is necessary. Perhaps core values like honor and selflessness instilled by military institutions remain as deeply ingrained as the calling of tradition to take a patriot’s place in line. But our gratitude to veterans is an indelible obligation. It must reach past the collective refrain of five words. Today we recognize their commitment as a legacy that maintains the benefits of peace. And we do so as the consequence of citizenship in our great nation.

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